‘From one (former) politically ignorant youth to another: let us talk change.’

Swazis don’t care how public funds are spent yet they always complain of lack of services at different levels of government. A majority of Swazis are ignorant of even basic information such as the role of political parties in a democracy and how the government is supposed to spend our tax. 

Not many people seem worried about how the country is governed too. I get it. Not everyone is guilty as I am for being politically ignorant for so long. 

Maybe you’re bored hearing about the same people and the same issues, or maybe you get sick of hearing people calling for political change. However, spare a thought for me today. I want us engage from one former politically ignorant youth to another.

The current situation in the country is bad. We can’t afford the luxury of being politically indifferent. “Caring about politics” right now has a simpler meaning— Love for the people. 

Saying that you don’t care about politics is, right now, tantamount to saying you don’t have any love for the people. So buck up and look around you. If you care about the country, the people you surround yourself with or even social justice, then you also care about politics right now.

It is my view that to be politically ignorant in such a situation is to be lazy and perhaps to betray the course of justice. You can dress it up as being ‘politically neutral’and talk about it that way all you like, and probably no one (even a person like me who has always considered herself as such) will think you stupid. But I reserve the right to judge you for apathy and poor values.

I know this sounds harsh, but here’s the thing: it is vitally important that smart, rational and sensible people engage with politics and stand up to the call for change in Swaziland. 

A failure to do so would mean allowing those who are taking advantage of your failure to pay attention, even counting on it, to make things worse for everyone, and the downward spiral will continue. In the final analysis, this mean you are an accomplice to the mess.

It is certainly true that in this country we almost never “search endlessly” for information. The information we normally get from our government is never challenged. 

Nonetheless, it is likely that most people devote far more time and effort seeking information when they buy food or beauty products than when they decide to vote in the national elections. I follow politics far more closely these days.

Civil servants rallied in eSwatini against the rule of King Mswati III, who they accuse of draining public coffers at the expense of his subjects. (Sourced from www.enca.com).

I spend more time than usual reading about economics and other materials, figuring out on what’s really wrong in this country. As I turn out to be more and more open-minded it is becoming clear now that the political system is problematic: it remains firmly in the hands of few people. 

The royal elites continue to enrich themselves by exploiting the vast wealth of our investment fund, Tibiyo Taka Ngwane. Nominally, a national development fund held by the king “in trust for the nation” has become a cash cow outside parliamentary scrutiny to the benefit of a handful of individuals. 

It brokers partnerships with foreign capital, mostly from South Africa to the benefit of a small number of Swazi businessmen and top managers. Meanwhile, the majority of Swazis remain poor and there are no drugs in hospitals currently. 

The unemployment rate is still high. Workers in the formal sector receive appallingly low salaries and little social protection. The rest get by with precarious informal economic activities or subsistence farming.

The Tinkhundla government seems to be failing to tackle these challenges effectively. It’s clear to me that this “archaic” governance system has plunged the country into a deep financial and economic crisis. 

Like all other past years, we cannot bank on the national elections to bring any real change. Thanks to the South African Customs Union (SACU) revenue sharing formula, and the paging of the Rand to the Lilangeni, our hallow financial position has been shielded from market failures. 

In a way the SACU receipts make our country to be dependent on South Africa in more ways than one. With South Africa pushing for a total overhaul of the SACU revenue sharing agreement, the Tinkhundla system will be unmasked for what it truly is.

Normally in the evening I would watch TV, get busy on whatsApp and Facebook then go to sleep. But one special thing happened in May 4th 2018 that totally changed my evening schedule. My Mum and I were watching a documentary about  the June 16 uprising that took place in South Africa.

I took strong interest in the documentary by immersing my mind completely. A week later I was able to buy a book titled ‘June 16: 40th Anniversary Edition’ written by Peter Magubane. 

It became obvious to me the uprising that began in Soweto and spread countrywide profoundly changed the socio-political landscape in South Africa. What is interesting to me though is that the events that triggered the uprising can be traced back to policies of the Apartheid government that resulted in the introduction of the Bantu Education Act in 1953. 

I really admire this generation for their collective heroism and clarity of purpose, they were able to overcome fear of death, the sting of hunger, episodes of deprivation while vanity of youth could not cripple their willingness to be heard.

What the youth of 1976 did validates my courage to dare to believe that my voice as a young person is powerful. All the youth of 1976 had was the naivety of youth, a burning desire to free themselves from the shackles of a system that didn’t recognize their intelligence and humanity and this was enough for them to shape history as we know it today. How I wish we can unite with the same clarity of purpose.

Surely, they were not perfect. They had their own fears, insecurities and demons to confront. Some of them could have been criminals too. However, they managed to define what they stood for beyond their personal imperfections and preferences. 

They rebelled against a system that was immovable and they came out victorious because they believed they had equal if not more power collectively to win.

Sadly, my generation is obsessed with personal glory, mapping things out on paper and we forget that real power lies in the connections and appeals we make to like-minded people’s hearts to join movements that are genuine in bringing justice to those who are less privileged than us. 

We are privileged. I am privileged in that I know the onus to bring justice and to make a difference is on me, just like the youth of 1976. True privilege is recognizing the power you have and using it to serve humanity. 

The South African youth of 1976 demonstrated this with no weapons or arms, only with the knowledge that their determination to stand up for their rights was powerful. They knew that if their generation didn’t do anything about it then they would have betrayed humanity.

I am appealing to the wider youth of my country, professionals and otherwise, to be more than mere bystanders in the midst of challenges in our beautiful Kingdom. 

We must apply lessons from the Soweto uprising for motivation and strength, and then show leadership by initiating dialogues and generating ideas to enable collective solutions so that we can all move the country forward without more damage. 

NB: Lungile Sukati is a Nurse and works with Doctors without Borders.

Lungile Sukati

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